History of the Orthodox Church

Brief history of the Orthodox Church

The Christian Church was first established by Jesus Christ at Jerusalem. He personally ordained His Apostles as His first bishops and commissioned them to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.

From the first Church in Jerusalem, another was then founded at Antioch, now known as Syria. St. Peter, Apostle and founder of the Church at Antioch, was succeeded by St. Ignatius, who first applied the term Catholic (universal) to the Church.  The Apostle Mark founded the Church at Alexandria, Egypt, and St. Andrew established the Church near Constantinople, later known as Istanbul, Turkey. 

The Fathers of ancient Christian Orthodoxy credit St. Paul with establishing the Apostolic Church at Rome, assisted by St. Linus, while the Roman Church claims St. Peter as its founder. St. Paul addressed his letters and greetings to the early Christians and would likely have greeted St. Peter specifically in his letters if he was known to be present in Rome at the time, consistent with St. Paul’s presence in the early Roman community as a leader.

These five ancient geographical centers are designated by the Apostolic Church as Patriarchates, each headed by its own Patriarch (Chief Bishop). Until 1054 A.D. these five geographical centers, or Sees, were united in faith, sacraments and doctrine as one universal (Catholic) Church but rigidly maintained their own autonomous jurisdictional and ecclesiastical authority.  This tradition of Patriarchal autonomy continues to this day.

In 1054 AD, the Apostolic See of Rome severed its relationship with Constantinople, and shortly thereafter, the Patriarchates of Jerusalem, Antioch and Alexandria decided to remain in communion with their sister Patriarchate of Constantinople. The Church of Rome has functioned as a separate patriarchal entity ever since. The Church of Rome retains the status as being an Apostolic See but it cannot be acknowledged as being the original See of Apostolic Christendom.   It does not now nor ever had supremacy of jurisdiction over the original Apostolic foundations of the Christian Church. It has jurisdiction only over its own constituency, the Roman Catholic Church. 

While the other four Apostolic Patriarchates do not deny the Church of Rome’s status as one of the original five Apostolic Sees, they are acknowledged as the fourth in chronology, preceeded by Jerusalem, Antioch and Alexandria. As the first, the Church of Jerusalem is the original foundation of Orthodox-Catholic Christendom, and is the only Apostolic See that can claim this distinction.

Both the ancient liturgies of St. Gregory and St. John Chrysostom were instituted when the Eastern Church and Western Church united into one religious entity. With liturgical form which complimented the cultural norms of their worshippers, both the Gregorian and Chrysostom of the Eastern and Western Church share many elements of rubrics and texts in their respective liturgies. More importantly, the true sacramental and spiritual essence of these two liturgical traditions are identical, expressing in prayer and action the true nature of Christ’s love for mankind, His great redeeming sacrifice on the cross, bodily resurrection and His unending desire for solemn, yet joyful sacramental Eucharistic communion with us.